Archive for the ‘Folk’ Category

Downloading MP3 Audio from NPR Radio

August 15th, 2010

So its been a while between posts, but I thought I’d post this quick how-to that I worked out a few days ago after trying to download Laura Marling’s recent appearance on World Cafe.

I’ve been trying to do this for a while, but as NPR have upgraded their player, many (if not all) guides out there on this topic no longer work. The new player requires the use of an additional API Key to get the MP3 link.

Here’s how to do it:

1) Install both Firefox (or Chrome?) and Firebug

2) load up the initial story page on NPR… something like :

3) Click on ‘Listen Now’ at the top of the page, and let the popup open

4) While on the popup window, Open Firebug (F12 on a PC), and click on the ‘Net’ Tab. If firebug doesnt open, either click on the address bar, and press F12 again, or click the little bug icon in the bottom right corner of the popup window.

5) clear your browser cache ( CTRL + SHIFT + DEL). (or else the browser wont bother getting the URL you want)

6) While Firebug is open, reload the page ( F5 )… (this will give us details of all the XML that the flash object requests)

7) On the ‘Net’ Tab, hover your cursor over each entry. Find the URL’s starting with There will be two - one gets the additional information for the page, and one gets the main information. The one you want will have the same id as the initial story page:

The Initial Story URL:

the XML URL:,audio,multimedia,parent,titles,teasers,dates,song,album,product&apiKey=MDAzMzQ2MjAyMDEyMzk4MTU1MDg3ZmM3MQ010

8) Notice the new apiKey field - the XML will not display without a valid apiKey! Open this XML URL in a new Browser tab, and Search for <mp3 type=”mp3″>, and your mp3 link will be below it! It should look something like:,122773665

9) if your having trouble saving it off, open it in a new tab and do Tools > Page Info > Media > Save As…

Its worth noting that if you know the broadcast date, and the name of the show, you could probably work out the links yourself - the first bit is static:

The last bit can be worked out from show name (World Cafe) and broadcast date (2010/08/06): wc/2010/08/20100806_wc_01.mp3


My Top 5 for 2009

December 31st, 2009

After 42 shows in 50 weeks, heres my top 5:

#1 - Bobby McFerrin @ Royal Festival Hall
for his playfulness, outstanding performance, and inspirational interaction with the audience.

#2 - Max Richter @ Union Chapel
for his beautiful melancholic music, and perfectionin performance.

#3 - Alex Lloyd @ The Troubadour
for the heartfelt simplicity of his songwriting and performance.

#4 - Andrew Bird @ Union Chapel
for playfully weaving beautiful melodies with little else but himself.

#5 - Fever Ray @ The Forum
for their eye poppingly slick production and dark ambience.

In particular, Bobby and Andrew and a particular Buckley-ish flavour to their shows, with their energy on stage, and musical playfulness. A special mention goes out to Noah and the Whale @ Crisis Hidden Gig, Tori Amos @ The Savoy, Bob Brozman @ The Half Moon, and Massive Attack @ Brixton Academy.


Laura Marling - Saint Pancras Old Church, 23 November, 2009

December 19th, 2009

images from seen Laura at Royal Festival Hall, and in a very crowded Hoxton Bar and Grill, I was not going to miss her in this tiny venue, holding no more than 100 seated fans. There is something special about a performer whose music can credibly travel between large and small venues, and still hold an audience to less than a whisper.

This tour, Laura was totally stripped back to her and her guitar. While I occasionally wanted for the warm accompaniments of Marcus Mumford, and the songs were slightly shorter with missing interludes, it was still sublime to hear her songs simplified, in their fundamental forms.

She performed most of the tracks from her debut album ‘Alas, I Cannot Swim’, but also a some new material from her next album, which sounds to be coming along nicely. I’m even happy to say one of my favourite tracks of hers (‘Blueberry Stone’) is not from her first album - hopefully it will mak an appearance on her new album?

heres a few samples:

image by timsnell on flicker.

Luka Bloom - Jazz Cafe, 14 November, 2009

December 18th, 2009

I went to this small gig as a farewell to our friends, as she has many memories and associations with Luka Bloom. This particular night, He was in typically fine form - starting early to squeeze in all of his 2 hour set, and rollicking along with much energy and banter with the audience - somewhat more than he gave at his last London gig at Bush Hall last year.

For such simple music, its incredible how enjoyable it is. From his crystal clean guitar sound, to his melodies and singing, theres alot to like. One of my friends called him ‘the Irish Paul Kelly‘, and I must admit, he’s got the same hard working, honest approach to music, which is a breath of fresh air. (Even if he was forced by some persistant fan to play ‘I Need Love’, which, understandably doesnt make an appearance often… :)

This recording is for Beth…

heres a sample from the night:


Andrew Bird - Union Chapel, 11 November, 2009

December 15th, 2009

Andrew quietly took to the stage, giving his rotary horn speaker a push into motion. He began playing what seemed broken melodies on his violin into his loop machine. As you suspended belief that the melodies could possibly work, or fit together in some way, you’d realize Andrew was thinking 4 or 5 layers ahead.

Between his precise and intricate violin playing and his sweet whistling, this was a live performance to behold. However much I enjoyed his latest recording, Noble Beast, he’s another musician who comes into his own on stage. Go check him out if your into folky stuff - he’s well worth witnessing!

heres some samples:

Mumford and Sons, Mr Hudson, Paloma Faith - HMV Forum, 24 October, 2009

November 29th, 2009

Mumford and Sons

Those strangely beautiful lads of Mumford and Sons opened the night with a scorching set, filled with their quirky mix of blue grass, folk, country and rock. Its a testament to their music that they’ve reached cult status with the under 21’s - a somewhat unexpected feat for a bluegrass/folk band. While it wasn’t long before they had a pleasant mosh pit happening, that it was just as quickly cut short by their short slot. Naturally the crowd was much aggrieved by this, with boo’s echoing out after shouts of ‘more’ fell on deaf ears. (I have to agree - Q Awards - the format was an epic fail… Next time only do 2 bands and give them decent set lengths!!) Mr Hudson came out and did well to turn a hostile crowd into an appreciative one, but that glamor pixie Paloma Faith came out and proved why we will likely be hearing alot more from her in the coming year, with her Amy-Winehose-without-the-fail, sexy style.

Any fans of Mumford or Paloma would do well to catch them live - check out some samples:



Johnny Flynn, Union Chapel, 26 September, 2009

October 30th, 2009

Johnny FlynnAnother gig, another new folk darling… This time Johnny Flynn at Transgressive Records 5 year anniversary showcase. Union Chapel was full to the brim with adoring fans, none of whom were disappointed as Johnny launched into tracks from his debut album A Larum, with full band.

Always the consummate musician, Johnny played guitar, mandolin, violin, trumpet and banjo flawlessly. Even without his wonderful songs this was an impressive feat, and only made the performance more amazing.

I first discovered Johnny at Laura Marling’s Royal Festival Hall folk showcase, when he played a satisfyingly rootsy version of one of his tracks. I hoping to hear a few more rootsy, freetime solo tracks, but realistically with full band backing this was unlikely. We did get a solo performance of ‘trains’ from his upcoming EP as encore, which served as a good consolation. Never-the-less, this was a enjoyable, solid performance that went down extremely well with his fans, even earning him a standing ovation at the end.

heres a sample:


Beth Orton - La Pigalle, 7 September, 2009

September 11th, 2009

Beth OrtonBeth Orton provided an opportunity to reminisce the 90’s with a retrospective tour following the ‘legacy’ rerelease of one of her earlier albums, ‘Trailer Park’. La Pigalle was also the perfect place to catch her in an intimate acoustic setting, although this time around we had to do without chairs, as it was standing room only (probably due to the kitchen being closed).

She started loudly with her vocal processing playing up abit, but very quickly grew into her stride, singing classic after classic. I’ve never considered myself a diehard fan, but the conviction of her performance and strength of her writing was self evident and drew everyone there into her world. She seemed quite scatty and insecure sometimes, but this only helped enamor her to the audience.

heres a few tracks:

Laura Marling - Royal Festival Hall, 11 August 2009

August 16th, 2009

Proceedings for the night began in much of the same vein as it continued through out - a short film introducing a small community of friends and folk musicians who work with, and influence each other. They are the babes of the new folk scene in London which is slowly growing, and tonight included stirling performances by Laura Marling and band, Alessi’s Ark, Ethan Johns, Andrew Bird, Johnny Flynn, Mumford & Sons, Pete Roe, Peggy Sue and Sons of Noel and Adrian.

It sounds like quite a large gathering, and it was - a truly eclectic mix of styles with a total of 24 songs for the night. One would expect that the additional acts would be merely a distraction to the main event, but this certainly was not the case. Laura introduced the audience to the wonderful music of her friends, who put a convincing case together that this was also just scratching the surface of the untapped folk talent out there. I’m certainly going to be listening to many of them in alot more detail in the weeks to come.

It was great to see Laura in a different context to the solo aspect I experienced at the Hoxton gig some months back. Tonight she was accompanied by a keys, drums, cello, fiddle and bass, which all filled out the textures in her songs nicely. I couldnt help but draw some comparison between her and Nick Drake’s ‘Way To Blue’ when she sang with the cello. While I think she has already attained alot of the influence on others that Nick Drake had, I hope she has a much longer and prosperous life than he acheived. Her new album tracks are as good as - if not a growth from - her debut album, and I still strongly believe she has alot of potential as an era defining songwriter - the next Joni, Suzanne or Tori, and I personally cant wait!

Heres a few tracks from the night:




Bon Iver - Serpentine Sessions, 30 June 2009

July 13th, 2009

photo by minifig -

Bon Iver’s show started with a Justin and band wandering on stage in a typically unassuming manner and taking to their instruments quietly, setting about silencing the audience with their beautiful music.

But this was the second time I’d seen Bon Iver, and to be honest, I preferred the first time around. While they were more polished this time, with a more defined, substantial sound, it was clear this show was nearing the end of a long tour. They’ve been on a constant world tour for the last 2 or so years, and has been in high demand everywhere as a boutique act. Many festivals have shown alot of interest - Glastonbury even had them play 3 different stages on 3 separate days just before this show, so its not suprising they seemed abit fatigued.

However, this was by no means a weak performance - the songs and performance still held the intensity that every audience member have come to love in their music, and an intensity on stage that would put the majority of bands to shame. In Justin Vernon’s own words they “wont be playing here again for a very long time”, implying they were due for a break and a long hiatus. I even got the feeling that it may even be more permanent than that, but lets hope not!

heres some examples: